E-Wire Environmental Press Release Distribution
Ground Water Clean-Up Nanoparticles
are 1,000 Times Thinner Than Human Hair
This one looks like a "keeper"

New Technology Revolutionizing Ground Water Clean-Up; Nanoparticles are
1,000 Times Thinner Than Human Hair
Big Implications for Bioterrorist Threats, Nuclear Waste & Superfund Sites;
Potential to Save More Than $100 Billion in Clean Up Efforts

From: Elaine
BETHLEHEM, PA., Mar. 13 -/E-Wire/ --At a size 1,000 times thinner than a
human hair, magnetic nanoparticles are easy to overlook. But add the minute
Herculean particles to contaminated groundwater, and they may just change
the world.
So says a team of environmental engineers who have pioneered and tested a
new technology using nanoparticles that can cleanse polluted underground
aquifers that provide drinking water to an increasingly thirsty world.
Wei-xian Zhang, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering
at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa., has a patent pending for his
remediation method and has licensed the technology to two environmental
companies. He also recently received a grant from the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to explore the potential for using nanoparticles to treat
hazardous waste.
"Nanoparticles have been used in chemical processing and electrical
engineering for years, but as far as I know, we are the first to use them
for groundwater cleanup,'' says Zhang. "The potential of this technology to
help improve the environment is enormous and truly has global
Nanotechnology involves pumping "nanoparticles'' -- minute, magnetic, iron-
based particles so small that 100,000 would fit on the head of a pin, into
the groundwater. With a composition that is 99.9 percent iron and less than
0.1 percent palladium, nanoparticles have a large relative surface area and
a high rate of reactivity -- and they race through groundwater like
bloodthirsty mosquitoes searching for prey.
When applied to water or soil contaminated with carcinogenic solvents used
in dry cleaning and industrial processes, nanoparticles remove chlorine and
convert the solvents to harmless hydrocarbons and chlorides commonly found
in table salt. The approach is dramatically more effective than traditional
cleanup methods that require water to be pumped out, treated, then disposed
Nanoparticle technology offers the potential for significant savings. For
example, a $20-million clean-up project might cost $5 million, says Zhang,
and nationwide savings could be staggering when you consider that the U.S.
government alone projects spending $750 billion in the next 30 years to
clean up contaminated groundwater.
The method also holds promise for reducing the impact of bioterrorist
attempts to contaminate water because nanoparticles can reduce biological
and chemical agents quickly, according to Zhang. For example, Lehigh
researchers say the tiny particles were tested and found effective in
detoxifying cyanide. The technology also might offer a safer, cheaper, and
faster way to clean up nuclear waste and Superfund sites.
The effectiveness of the new technology was demonstrated at the Trance Co.
recently at its Trenton N.J. manufacturing plant. Trane, a maker of air
conditioning systems, has been investigating a toxic trichloroethene (TCE)
plume for several years. The company put nanoparticles to work in several
monitoring wells. Samples taken from the wells 12 hours after the
nanoparticles had been injected showed that as much as 96 percent of the TCE
was reduced to harmless ethylene and ethane.
"This is the first technology that we have found that has the potential to
clean up the thousands of sites in many industries in the U.S., where
currently nothing is happening,'' says Chang Tai, environmental and safety
engineer for Trane.
Lehigh's researchers plan to test their remediation method this year at
other contaminated groundwater sites, and are exploring the use of
nanoparticles to neutralize explosives and treat nuclear waste sites.
Nanotechnology Fact Sheet
-- Scientists say much of the nation's groundwater is already contaminated.
Over the next 30 years, the U.S. government alone estimates it will spend
$750 billion to clean up contaminated groundwater, or about $8,000 per
American family.
-- The traditional "pump and treat" clean-up method requires hydraulic pumps
to bring the groundwater to the surface. The contaminated water then needs
to be treated in a treatment vessel to meet federal drinking water
standards. Only at this point can the water be discharged.
-- Nanoparticle technology treats water "in situ," or right in the ground.
The nanoparticles are injected into the ground and they race around
cleansing the contaminated water.
-- At the Trane Co. manufacturing site in Trenton, N.J., water samples were
taken from wells 12 hours after the nanoparticles were injected, and 96
percent of the chemical pollution was reduced to harmless gases. Prior to
that, the most effective method produced only a 25- percent reduction.
-- Zhang and Dan Elliott, a Ph.D. candidate who left his job as a promising
industrial engineer to work with Zhang on the breakthrough technology,
published the results of their Trenton site tests in November 2001 in the
journal Environmental Science and Technology. Their work was also featured
in the Dec. 17, 2001, issue of Chemical and Engineering News.
-- The Lehigh scientists are searching for funding to scale up their
nanoparticle production, as they cannot produce them fast enough for the
tests they want to do.
-- Nanoparticle technology could work to counter terrorist attempts to
contaminate drinking water supplies, as the particles can reduce biological
and chemical agents quickly. For example, researchers have found that
nanoparticles can detoxify cyanide.
-- The tiny particles could be useful in cleaning up nuclear waste, as
larger particles have already been found effective in treating uranium.
Nanoparticles also are effective in neutralizing organic solvents, which
make up the contamination in half the nation's Superfund sites.

SOURCE: Lehigh University

      -0-  03/13/2002
     /CONTACT:   Tracey Moran, 610-758-4573; William Johnson, 610-758-3172/

     /Web Site:  
http://www.lehigh.edu /